1) Baptism is Immersion
The word baptism was transliterated from the original biblical texts and not translated. The original word in the Greek Manuscripts for the word baptism is "baptizo", which means to immerse. Looking at the Greek word, it is clear to see that the word was merely carried over from that language to English without actually translating it. Hence, if the word were actually translated, the English equivalent would read "immerse" instead of baptize.
The fact that the word is still transliterated instead of translated, along with centuries of practice that has deviated from the practice of the early church has led to the modern day confusion about the actual practice of baptism. It is specifically immersion, not sprinkling, pouring, or "christening". There are specific words in Greek for sprinkling and pouring, such as "rantizo", which is not the same as immersion.
There is a symbolism behind the act of immersion which will become evident as we look at what scripture teaches about Baptism.
2) Baptism is a New Testament practice Commanded by Jesus.
Before Jesus left, he commanded his disciples to "Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, ...: (Matthew 28:18-20). It was a command given by Jesus. Baptism is important enough to have been singled out along with "Go and Make Disciples" and "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" It was the right thing to do, as is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus himself was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). However, the baptism that Jesus received was different than what Christians receive. Christian Baptism is "into Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3), and Jesus couldn't be baptized into himself!
2) Baptism is to be accompanied by faith:
"He who has believed and has been Baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." (Mark 16:16). To be saved, it takes belief and baptism. Take away belief, or faith, and it does not matter whether you are baptized or not.
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) Faith is what makes us Sons of God. Notice the second explanatory note of this verse. Baptism and Faith are mated together. They are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. The next verse explains it better:
"What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'God in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, 'You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of works, faith was made complete; and the scripture was fulfilled which says, 'and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God." (James 2:14-23). This passage teaches again that we are justified (made right with God) by faith. In order to be justified (forgiven) by faith, that faith must be demonstrated. Undemonstrated faith is a dead faith and is useless according to this scripture. That is why Baptism and Faith must go together or it is useless. The next passage makes this very clear:
"having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the un-circumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions" (Colossians 2:12-13). In baptism, we are buried with Christ and raised up to a new life with our sins all forgiven. Notice the raising up and forgiveness does not come from our earning it through obedience, but through faith in the working of God. Forgiveness is God's work, not our work. Our work is to believe and to have faith in his work. If it is a true faith, it will be accompanied by action and lead to baptism into an obedience life.
So faith is absolutely necessary. But faith without baptism is just as dead as baptism without faith. The sampling of passages above make it clear that the two go hand in hand. One without the other is useless.
3) Faith and Baptism must be preceded by hearing the word. The object of faith is specific. Faith is not just believing in God. Nor is it believing merely in Baptism. The object of Christian Faith is in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for our sins, was buried and arose from his grave. Consider the following scriptures:
"So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)
Jesus himself said: "For God so loved the world that he sent his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
"And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this scripture he preached Jesus to him. And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized? And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart you may.' And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:36-38) Notice that the object of his faith was in Jesus Christ as the son of God. Notice that Philip preached to him Jesus. So the object of the faith that accompanies baptism is specific. You must believe in Jesus. Jesus said he was the Son of God. Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised from the dead. Jesus commanded everyone to repent, be baptized, and live obedient lives to God.
4) Baptism is to be accompanied by repentance
Many today are confused about repentance. It is not merely going to the front of a church building and weeping at the "altar", it is not going to a priest in a confessional, it is not doing a "rosary", it is not answering the "invitation" at some church. Repentance literally means to turn. Turning means to make a decision to live your life differently, and in the case of Christian conversion, to be converted to a lifestyle that honors Jesus as Lord. Repentance has also been paired with baptism as faith has:
"Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) We are to repent and be Baptized. Baptism without repentance is useless and empty. Repentance without baptism is rebellious. How in the world could someone have a truly repentant heart and yet not be baptized? Repentance and Baptism (which are both products of faith) are required in order to have the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
"...baptism now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but a pledge to God for a good conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). Notice that baptism saves us, but not the act itself. It is to be done as a pledge to God. It is not just a ritual that is performed that somehow magically attains forgiveness for us. The power of forgiveness and eternal life is not in the water, but in the resurrection of Christ. How? --
-Jesus mastered sin because he was completely sinless (Hebrews 4:15).
-Jesus mastered death by overcoming it. (Romans 6:9)
-He was able to overcome death because he was sinless, and death is the result of sin (Romans 5:12).
-Because he mastered death and raised up from his grave, all who would follow him can look forward to their own resurrection to eternal life with God (I Corinthians 15:1-23) Therefore, the power of eternal life comes from Jesus, not from our own efforts.
So Faith and Repentance are both to accompany baptism or it is useless. That are married. You cannot have a complete package unless all are present.
5) Baptism must be accompanied by Confession.
This is implied in scripture and makes perfect sense. How in the world would you know that a person is a believer in Jesus and has repented unless he makes it known? There is an example of this confession in Acts 8:37 which was quoted in the above section. Also consider the following passages:
"...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Romans 10:9-10) You must confess Jesus as Lord. Notice that it is connected with salvation with the words "shall be saved", just as baptism and faith are connected with baptism in Mark 16:16 with the same phrase, "shall be saved.". So confession of your faith in Jesus as the risen Lord is necessary.
Jesus himself said, "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33)
6) The Purpose of Baptism
It is taken for granted that you understand that Hearing the word, faith, and repentance all must accompany baptism. Otherwise baptism is useless, nothing more than getting wet.
Both something real and symbolic happens in Baptism. Romans Chapter 6 has a lengthy discussion of baptism:
"...all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death" (Romans 6:3)
"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)
"...our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who died is freed from sin." (Romans 6:6-7)
Symbolically, a believer sort of demonstrates his faith in the death burial and resurrection of Jesus by re-enacting it in baptism. But notice that symbolism and reality go together. We raise up out of the water to walk a new life, we become a new person. The reason we are a new person is because we are freed from sin. Because we are freed from sin, we have God as our father and we become his beloved children (I John 3:1-3; Ephesians 1:5). The next scripture echoes the same thought:
"If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, ... For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God ... Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed..." (Colossians 3:1-5)
7) The Results of Baptism
See the section above on the purpose of baptism. One of the result of Baptism is being freed from sin. That means that sin no longer has mastery over you. It cannot keep you apart from God against your will. "But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7) Baptism is not an isolated act of obedience, it is the beginning of a life where we "walk in the light", and as a result, the blood of Jesus cleanses us. Walking in the light means walking in obedience to God: "The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keep his word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him;" (I John 2:4-5)
"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved ..." (Mark 16:16a)
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ... unless on is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:3,5)
"Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). This sentence encapsulates the thoughts in Romans 6 and Acts 2:38. A regeneration (or re-birth to a new person) takes place at baptism along with a renewal by the Holy Spirit which is given to every Christian.
"And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16)
"...all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death." (Romans 6:3) This first part is easy enough to understand. We have been placed into Christ, or into a relationship with him. But the second part is a little more difficult. We are baptized into HIS DEATH. His death becomes our death. The punishment of death for sins is paid by Him instead of us. Jesus himself said that he came to "give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27)
"...just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)
"having been buried with Him in baptism in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the un-circumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:12-14)
"...baptism now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but a pledge to God for a clean conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (I Peter 3:21).
8) Concluding Comments
Baptism is a graphic display of faith in the work of Forgiveness by Jesus on the cross and his resurrection and of one's own death to self and re-birth in Christ. It is unique, one-time decisive event (Ephesians 4:4-6). The faith, repentance, and confession that accompany baptism are things that you continue to practice for life, but baptism is done one time. It is the beginning point of your eternal relationship with God.
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